Silence is golden: How, and why, to create office quiet rooms

Insights
May 25, 2022
As collaboration spaces, open plan offices and hot-desking become more popular, where do privacy and office quiet rooms fit in?

Here we look at why silent spaces are still important and how to go about incorporating them into your workspace.   

From loud conversations and tapping keyboards, to music and ringing phones, offices are noisy. While many people thrive in an open plan office, other people crave the sound of silence, especially for concentrating on deeper projects and tasks.

Why office quiet rooms are needed

LaSalle Munroe, Director of Electrical Engineering at Microsoft, famously created ‘the quietest room in the world’ to allow developers to create products like the Xbox and Surface computers. It was so quiet, they say you could hear your own heartbeat and bones grinding together!1

While you might not need to go to this extreme, it shows that thinking about design, layout and finishes can dramatically shift the acoustics of a space. It makes sense to offer staff a choice so they can find a space that matches their task and workstyle. Here are three reasons why: 

1. Privacy

Although working collaboratively stimulates creative discussions and sparks ideas, some conversations need to be conducted privately. Whether it is for a performance review, to make a private phone call or to discuss a confidential project, there will be times when having everyone overhearing your conversation isn’t going to work. You need spaces where people feel comfortable having confidential discussions.

2. Personality

Everyone is different. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking argues that an open floor plan isn’t for everyone. “You feel like you’re constantly getting interrupted all the time and it takes you twice as long to complete whatever task you’re working on,” Cain says.2 “For introverts, we feel at our most alive and switched on when things are a bit calmer”. 

Even if you are an extrovert, there’ll be times when you want a bit of quiet time to recharge or refocus. The introverts may also appreciate you using the quiet rooms from time to time!

3. Productivity

Constant interruptions, as well as visual and auditory distractions, can lead to lower productivity and become stressful. Depending what you are working on, there are times where you need some quiet space so you can fully concentrate. According to research, employees who work in an open floor office lose 86 minutes a day due to distractions.2 

How to create office quiet rooms and spaces

From pods and telephone booths to outdoor spaces, wellness rooms and libraries, there are many alternatives for creating quiet spaces at your workplace. While they don’t need to be expensive, they do need to be well-planned, and factored into your new office fitout

1. Enclosed rooms

One option is to provide unassigned individual offices or enclosed meeting rooms where workers can go if they want to have a private meeting, meditate or need time away from other co-workers. These can be designed with glass doors that offer privacy as well as visibility. A simple booking system lets people reserve this space as needed. 

2. Using furniture to define spaces

Furniture can be used creatively to give an area a private office feel without needing to build a separate office. High backed furniture, curtains, whiteboards and partitions can all be strategically placed providing spaces for workers to focus without being surrounded by a lot of people. Or you can set aside a lounge chair and lamp in a corner or office nook. Furniture or partitions on wheels work well as they can easily be rearranged as needed.

3. Office pods 

A growing trend in office design is the soundproof office pod or acoustic phone booths. These stand alone self-contained spaces give workers a place to concentrate away from other noises and distractions in the office. They come in various sizes to cater for individuals or groups and don’t need to take up a lot of space. 

Google has made use of EnergyPods, a sci-fiesque sleeping bubble created by MetroNaps featuring “a zero-gravity napping bed, sleep music, programmed lights and relaxing vibrations all engineered to perfect the 20-minute power nap”.3

4. Reduce office noise

An experienced office designer will be able to give you tips on ways to reduce background noise around the office. Hard surfaces tend to echo so you may choose to install carpets, wall hangings, acoustic panels or even plants in large containers to help absorb the noise. 

5. Do not disturb

Much like the idea of having quiet carriages on trains, you can create zoned areas or tables in the office where workers can go if they want a quiet space for focused work. Other signals such as wearing headphones or blocking out time in your calendar can also indicate to others that you don’t want to be disturbed. 

Custom office design for a versatile workspace

Vestra is an office fitout company that specialises in flexible office design strategies that help businesses thrive. We have been designing and fitting out commercial interiors in and around Sydney’s CBD for over a decade. Our design team will take the time to understand your unique business requirements and craft an office fitout with all the furniture, fittings and equipment you need.

If you would like to know how to incorporate quiet spaces into your workspace or have any questions about office fitouts, contact us today. We’d love to chat with you.  


References:

  1. Richard Gray, Inside the quietest place on Earth (Published by BBC), 29 May 2017
  2. Ruth Umoh, Here’s how an open floor plan can hurt your productivity (Published byCNBC) , 16 Feb 2018
  3. Dan Ketchum, You Can Nap on the Job at These 10 Companies, 5 Feb 2019

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